Reviewed by Brenda S. Cox
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”—Anne of Green Gables, chapter 21, quoted in Day 21 of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional by Rachel Dodge
Rachel Dodge, author of Praying With Jane, has done it again. She’s brought us a wonderful devotional based on classic literature, Anne of Green Gables.
There are only a few authors whose works I read over and over again, finding encouragement, joy, and inspiration each time. Of course Jane Austen is one, and L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables and other delightful books, is another. (See Beyond Jane Austen for more.) So I love The Anne of Green Gables Devotional.
The devotional goes through the novel, pulling one profound quote out of each chapter. Rachel gives relevant Bible verses and draws out a brief lesson, gives a Personal Application for us to reflect on. Finally the Prayer for Today can be adapted to our personal circumstances.
I found extra joy in Jana Christy’s illustrations for the book. Simple and sweet, they fit perfectly with Anne’s story and the themes Rachel draws out.
While Montgomery (1874-1942) was writing about a hundred years after Austen, in a very different world (Prince Edward Island, Canada), both were great observers of people. For both, romance is part of their stories, but beyond that they explore some similar themes.
Forgiveness and Second Chances
Both emphasize forgiveness and second chances. Anne faces false accusations, teasing, and threats. She learns to apologize (“It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven, doesn’t it?”). Eventually she forgives even Gilbert Blythe for hurting her pride by calling her “carrots.” Chapters 14, 15, 19, 21, 28, and 39 explore these themes, and help us confront injustice and unforgiveness in our own lives.
Of course in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth also has to learn to forgive Darcy’s insult to her pride (She says, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine”). Darcy doesn’t seem to be much good at verbal apologies, but his actions in rescuing the Bennet family from disgrace work well as an apology; just as Gilbert’s rescuing Anne from drowning also brings a turning point to their relationship.
Both Montgomery and Austen had deep faith in God. This appears subtly in their novels. Both believed in absolute truth, right and wrong. They showed that God brings about growth and good, especially through our errors and failures.
Anne’s arrival was a mistake—Marilla and Matthew wanted an orphan boy, and were sent a girl by accident. However, they decide to keep her so they can do her some good. She ends up being a great blessing to them. Matthew says it wasn’t just luck: “It was Providence, because the Almighty saw we needed her.” Day 1 of the Devotional reflects on God’s plans being different, and better, than ours. Later chapters (5, 13, 18) remind us that we often have to wait, but that “all things great are bound up with all things little” (ch. 18), and God can use even the hardest times for good in our lives.
In Austen’s books also, even the saddest events eventually turn out for good, in God’s providence. Darcy is grateful for Elizabeth’s anger and misunderstandings, which helped him begin to apply the “good principles” (meaning religious principles) that he learned from childhood. Willoughby’s desertion of Marianne turns out to be a good thing, as she marries a much better man. Even her self-inflicted illness causes her to reflect on her life and make changes, seeking to be governed by religion, reason, and useful work.
Other themes in The Anne of Green Gables Devotional include weariness, blind spots, soul care, and thankfulness for true riches. I hope you’ll enjoy it all!
The Appeal of Austen and Montgomery
Rachel Dodge has written extensively on Jane Austen both in Praying With Jane and in her regular contributions to Jane Austen’s World. I asked her to share more with us about why both Austen and Montgomery appeal to her.
Brenda: What things do you see that Jane Austen and L. M. Montgomery (or their respective novels) have in common?
Rachel: Jane Austen and L. M. Montgomery both favor female characters who are strong in character and rich in personality. They each give us realistic heroines who are very likable. Their leading ladies aren’t perfect, but they are in a continual state of growth. They also both tend to write about small villages and close groups of people who know all about one another and are always involved in each other’s lives.
Brenda: Is there any particular reason that both appeal to you so much?
Rachel: I enjoy Austen and Montgomery for several reasons: They both created characters and worlds I want to revisit over and over. I’ve reread each author’s books more times than I can count. Their characters are incredibly relatable even today, and I love stepping back in time to visit bygone eras when I open their books.
Austen and Montgomery’s works provide comfort, familiarity, and inspiration for my everyday life. Both authors are warm, witty, and wise. I frequently find myself laughing over their books one moment and then dabbing my eyes the next. I like their storylines and all of their interesting side characters. They are both very entertaining and quotable. I’m always reading lines out loud to anyone who will listen!
Brenda: Amen to all that!
The Anne of Green Gables Devotional ends with several bonuses. Chapter 40 tells how Anne of Green Gables came to be written, and how popular it has been for over a hundred years. A list of discussion questions, three for each chapter, can be used to go through the devotional with friends or a study group. Questions for children are also available online. Finally, “The World According to Anne Shirley” lists some of the most delightful quotes from the novel on various topics. A couple of of my favorites:
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world” (ch. 19).
“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up-up-up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer” (ch. 7).
I’ve already ordered several lovely copies of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional as Christmas gifts. You still have time to order for Christmas, though I think Amazon has run out a couple of times, so do order soon. Teenage girls as well as adults will probably enjoy it. You can also get signed bookplates and bookmarks to go with your gift at this site ($1 each set, free shipping).
In coming weeks, I’ll share some more Christmas gifts ideas, for Jane Austen fans.
Great literature, in my humble opinion, inspires us to live better lives and encourages us to keep going. Do you have any favorite quotes from Anne, or quotes from other L. M. Montgomery books that encourage you or make you laugh or cry? Share them with us!
You can find Rachel Dodge at:
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